Could the Google phone be the ultimate Microsoft killer?

March 19, 2007

Could the Google phone be the ultimate Microsoft killer? With Apple’s iPhone due out in June, and rumors of a Microsoft Zune phone doing the rounds, it appears that search giant Google is also working on its own phone. And since Microsoft is “in it to win it” when it comes to online services such as search, could the Google phone be an attempt by Google to strike an early blow against Microsoft in the emerging mobile Internet market?  

Officially, Google is not prepared to say very much. A Google spokesperson, Erin Fors, said that while mobile is an important area for Google, the company had nothing further to announce.

“We remain focused on creating applications and establishing and growing partnerships with industry leaders to develop innovative services for users worldwide,” she said told Reuters.

On the other hand, a Google official speaking in Spain last week did admit that the company was investigating the possibility of offering a mobile phone. And according to British phone analyst, Richard Windsor, during CeBIT Google staff confirmed that a Google mobile phone was being developed.

“Google has come out of the closet at the CeBIT trade fair admitting that it is working on a mobile phone of its own. This is not going to be a high-end device but a mass market device aimed at bringing Google to users who don’t have a PC,” Windsor wrote in a note to his clients.

Rumors about Google have been wrong before (Google never did launch that line of PCs), but there are a number of reasons, at a more strategic level, why Google might be developing a mobile phone.

As Windsor pointed out, a Google phone would allow non-PC owners to finally experience Google. But then again, if someone has resisted buying a PC, it’s unlikely that they would buy a Internet-enabled mobile phone.

A more likely reason is that Google wants to develop an out-of-home relationship with its users; most of us do, after all, carry a mobile phone with us most of the time.

While Microsoft pretty much has control of the home and business computing desktop (not dismissing Apple or Linux, but Microsoft does have the marketshare), Google may think that it has a chance, by leveraging its brand, of being a significant player in the mobile communications/computing arena. If this is the case, given its lack of relationships with telecommunications and distribution companies, it could be an up hill battle.

A Google phone is unlikely to make much of a difference to the ongoing war between Google and Microsoft. A Microsoft killer it is not, I’m afraid.

Or perhaps, the Google phone is more of a marketing initiative to get the Google brand into the streets? Somebody’s pet project perhaps? In which case this will simply be an innovative, though expensive, marketing project.

As computer companies try their hand at being mobile phone companies, it’s not clear that any of them has what it takes to take on the might of the existing mobile phone companies.

At least it will be fascinating to watch from the sidelines as some very interesting mobile phones hit market in coming months.

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